May 20, 2018
There’s been a lot of discussion and disagreement over whether EA has a talent or a money gap. Some people have been saying there’s not that large of a funding gap anymore and that people should be using their talent directly instead. On the other hand, others have been saying that there definitely still is a funding gap.
I think both parties are right, and the reason for the misunderstanding is that we have been referring to the entire EA movement instead of breaking it down by cause area. In this blog post I do so and demonstrate why we’re like the blind men touching different parts of the elephant, and how if we put all of it together, we’ll be able to make much better decisions.
Meta organizations (that fall outside of one of the above areas.)
I am not extremely confident on all these numbers (particularly the size of the AI talent gap), but I am confident of the broader claim that the gaps are different between cause areas, and we would all benefit from making that distinction in public discourse. I am happy to update these as people make good arguments for them in the comments. Below I’ll go into further details of how I came to these estimates.
Poverty talent gap
In my experience, poverty organizations generally hire outside of the EA movement for many roles. There are still small gaps for some poverty organizations hiring management and leadership roles from the EA pool (~4). There are also some gaps in operational talent (~2). A part of this gap also comes from the possibility of founding more effective poverty charities (~4), such as a tobacco taxation or conditional cash transfer charity, like what has been done with Charity Science Health and Fortify Health.
Poverty money gap
The gap for money in poverty is huge, even when only looking at charities significantly stronger than Give Directly, whose gap is very large and arguably virtually unlimited. The gap is close to $100 million after Good Ventures funds its portion. There is also reason to expect this gap to grow with recent changes in Good Venture’s funding plans and a strong group of incubation charities in GiveWell’s system. This gap only grows if you think there are strong opportunities in poverty outside of GiveWell’s list. Assuming donating 50% of a $100,000 salary, it would easily take 1,720 people doing E2G to fill this gap. And that is not even including new Givewell incubated/recommended charities!
Animal rights talent gap
The talent gap for animal rights is very large. Many AR organizations are hiring and trying to grow as fast as possible. There is also considerable scope for entrepreneurship and founding new and effective animal rights organizations. The animal rights community as a whole is very small and the number of EAs in the movement is even more limited.
Animal rights money gap
Historically animal rights has been chronically hampered by insufficient funding across the movement. However the entrance of Open Phil to the area has created a very different situation. I now categorize the funding gaps as mixed. The funding is fairly centralized between Open Phil and the AR Funds being run by the same person (Lewis), which controls nearly 50% of all funding in AR. If you have strong agreement with Lewis about the priorities in the area, I would say the funding gap is small. However, if you have very different views, then the funding gap could be seen as large.
Artificial intelligence talent gap
The talent gap for Artificial intelligence is middling, with many organizations in the field in need of researchers as well as some gaps in meta-organizations focusing on meta-research. There are also significant gaps in operational talent to help the support structures of these organizations.
Artificial intelligence money gap
The money gap for AI organizations seems very small, with even large funders being turned away from many projects. Many organizations have very large amounts of funding, and given the recent changes in publicity, much like animal rights, AI went from being chronically underfunded to well funded in almost all areas. Furthermore, due to the fairly wide spread of funders, even people with more unique perspectives on AI will find it hard to find good gaps.
Meta organizations talent gap
Importantly in this section, I mostly consider meta organizations that do not fall under another cause area. For example, ACE would fall under animal rights, not under meta. The talent gap for these organizations generally seems small, with some posted roles in leadership (~7), operations (~3), research (~3) and other general roles (~3) across organizations. There seems to be some scope for founding new charities as well (~4).
Meta organizations money gap
Much like animal rights, there's a lot of centralization of funding with a handful of funders controlling a very high percentage of total funding. Like in animal rights, there is one person who controls the EA funds on meta-organizations and is the lead investigator for Open Phil. Thus I think an EA’s perspectives on funding gaps will largely depend on how well their views align with Nick Beckstead’s. This gap can range from very small to moderate sized (low millions) depending on how broadly you define meta-organizations.
Overall, as you can see, the talent and money gaps vary largely depending on the cause. If you think poverty is the highest impact area, earning to give is a very good choice. On the other hand, if you think animal rights is the best, figuring out how to best give your talents might be a better way forward. If you agree with Lewis, that is. Regardless of what cause you think is highest priority and what you think the gaps truly are, breaking them down by cause area will help everybody make better decisions.